• Niamh Quinlivan

SEND Music Specialist: Niamh Quinlivan

Updated: Jan 9

LUUMS Alumni and SEND music specialist Niamh, speaks of her experiences from LUUMS and life as a music specialist in the big city!

LUUMS, as I am sure you have experienced, facilitates so many opportunities to grow as a musician and of course connect with like-minded people. I can confidently say that as an allumnus (weird writing that..how official), LUUMS had a massive impact on me.

I was a student at the Uni of Leeds and a member of LUUMS for 4 years between 2015-2019. During this time I was a member of Chamber Choir, Chorus and Symphonic Choir, I also held a manager and conductor role in my 2nd year and was secretary in my 3rd year... basically I crammed in a load of LUUMS (and I can't not mention LUUMIC too!). I graduated in 2019 with an integrated masters in music and music psychology and here I am trying to 'adult' in London.


I currently work as a music specialist in a school in East London. The school provides specialised education for children and young people on the autism spectrum. My role is to provide music lessons and 1-1 sessions for pupils from early years to KS5. As a music specialist in an SEND environment I use music therapy techniques combined with sensory activities to encourage pupils to explore and express themselves through music and sound, and to communicate and connect with others. This involves a lot of singing, ukulele, piano, a massive variety of percussion instruments and all sorts of props such as balloons, flour, bubbles, mud, foam, puppets...you name it! I also teach more traditional music lessons with students who attend mainstream schools, focused on composition and performance, just to keep me on my toes if I wasn't already! It's very varied, different everyday and I can confidently say that though it is not without its challenges, I am in love my job.


I have been working full time here since September 2019 and as you can imagine, for my first job out of uni, this past year or so has been pretty weighty. Like everyone, we have had to adapt to the current situation. One rewarding aspect of this has been developing a school YouTube channel with my expressive arts collegues. I have also created an Instagram to share my ideas and expereinces (if you're at all interested it's @musicwithniamh). Posting short videos with lesson ideas, sensory activities, and songs has allowed many new ways for my pupils (and myself) to keep creative and keep learning.


Outside of work things, I live with my partner and fellow LUUMS Alumnus and I keep in touch with my beautiful friends I met at Leeds and through LUUMS. I am also part of a choir. When I moved to London I quickly looked to fill the LUUMS/Leeds shaped hole. Luckily I managed a few amazing concerts with the London Philharmonic Choir before the world turned upside down. Just before the first lockdown we performed Fauré's Requiem with the LPO. Weirdly enough on a recent Zoom rehearsal (of course...), we recently covered some old Chamber Choir repertoire and it brought back some great memories of rehearsals and performances. Fingers crossed we can get back to live music in the not so distant future!

If anyone is interested in my field and wants some ideas to use when volunteering, on placement, anything like that or maybe just wants to know a little more, please get in touch. I am more than happy for any current or past LUUMS members to reach out for a chat!


#Musicspecialist #luumsalumni #leeds #London #SENDmusic #musiceducation #specialistmusiceducation

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